Pennsylvania Republicans subpoena voters' social security numbers in 'dangerous' new election audit

With the 2021 general election now closer than 2020's, Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to request identifying information on Pennsylvania's roughly 9 million registered voters as part of a legislative investigation of former President Donald Trump's loss.

The legal requests are the opening salvo in what could be a long, messy fight over the investigation, which was spurred by unverified claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly rejected by federal judges, county elections officials, and even Trump's former attorney general.

The 17 subpoenas were approved in a party-line vote by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, a seldom-used panel that Republican leadership has turned into a vehicle for conducting their investigation.

Specifically, the subpoenas request:

  • All emails, legal guidance, and training procedures of the Department of State, which oversees elections, sent to the commonwealth's 67 county boards of election between May 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
  • A list of all of all registered voters in the commonwealth, including their name, date of birth, driver's license number, last four digits of social security number, address, and date of last voting activity on both November 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021
  • A list of everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election and 2021 primary divided by if they voted in-person, by mail, by absentee ballot, or by provisional ballot

Responses for this round of subpoenas are due Oct. 1. It's unclear who will have access to this data. The Senate is hiring a private vendor to conduct the review, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday.

The panel's chairperson, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, added that the vendor will be paid with taxpayer money. He is still reviewing vendor candidates, but did not identify any. He also did not rule out issuing further subpoenas for ballots or other election materials.

Much of this information the panel requested is already public, such as when and how voters last cast a ballot, and can be purchased from the Department of State for $20. However, the identifying information, such as the last four digits of voters' social security numbers, and their driver's license numbers, are not in the file.

Dush said the committee was seeking the social security numbers to verify voters' identities, seemingly referencing those claims.

“There have been questions around the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist," Dush said. “We're not responding to proven allegations, we are investigating the allegations."

After the meeting, Dush cited sworn affidavits gathered by the state Republican Party to justify his claim of unverified voters. He added he had not yet reviewed those affidavits.

There have been just a handful of proven cases of fraud in Pennsylvania, including a Trump supporter Chester County who tried to impersonate his son to cast a second ballot. The supporter is currently on trial.

However, most Republicans, such as Corman, have instead walked a middle ground.

They've denounced the Wolf administration and the state Supreme Court's actions in the lead up to the election for causing “inconsistencies," and signed letters asking for the state's electoral college results to be tossed out, but haven't branded the issue as “fraud."

Corman even referenced his old stand against the “hue and cry" of Trump supporters who wanted the state Legislature to appoint its own, Trump-supporting electors, overturning the 2020 election result.

He argued that distrust of the election results — fed by Trump and his allies false claims — created a need to address those concerns through a Senate investigation.

“Either we will find things that will better improve our laws, or we will find nothing that will dispel a lot of people's concerns," Corman said Wednesday.

Dush is only running the review after the panel's former chair, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, was ousted after publicly questioning Corman's desire to even hold the review.

GOP Feud: Corman changes forensic investigation, reassigns Mastriano's staff in squabble over probe

Mastriano was a vocal Trump ally who frequently cited claims of fraud, and was even outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when Trump's supporters attempted to disrupt Congress certifying President Joe Biden's win.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Democrats linked these efforts from Republicans to spread misinformation about the 2020 election to their investigation.

“The manner and the process by which we're going about trying to invalidate voters rights is dangerous and is tied into many activities which crossed the line which has been established not just for this past election cycle, but frankly for the existence of this country," state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, said.

Capitol siege lays bare GOP electoral misinformation in Harrisburg

Senate Democrats said after the meeting that they also planned to challenge the subpoenas in state court and seek an injunction blocking their data request, though it's unclear if such a challenge would succeed. Those filings are still pending.

Wolf added in a statement he'd oppose the Senate Republicans efforts, and that the GOP “should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars."

There isn't even agreement among Pennsylvania Senate Republicans on the investigation . At least two state senators have already spoken out against the effort.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, said in a statement last month that he expected the legal battles over the investigation to drag out for three to five years.

Yaw also pushed back on the motive for many who support the so-called election review, who may believe it could find proof of fraud and reinstate Trump. Based on emails he's received, “that is the underlying rationale for many who support an audit," Yaw wrote.

“Unless there is a coup, which is not going to happen in the United States, the 2020 election is over. Biden is the president," Yaw said. “An audit is not going to change that fact irrespective of the outcome."

Pennsylvania's 2020 election was already officially audited. The audit by the Department of State, which looked at 45,000 ballots from 63 out of 67 counties, affirmed Biden's 80,000-vote win.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pennsylvania Senate GOP set to subpoena voters' identifying info as part of election investigation

A Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate panel will vote on 17 subpoenas on Wednesday, requesting personal information on every commonwealth voter, as well as all of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration's communications to county election boards in the months before and after the 2020 presidential election.

Specifically, the subpoenas request:

  • All emails, legal guidance, and training procedures of the Department of State, which oversees elections, sent to the commonwealth's 67 county boards of election between May 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
  • A list of all of all registered voters in the commonwealth, including their name, date of birth, driver's license number, last four digits of social security number, address, and date of last voting activity on both November 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021
  • A list of everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election and 2021 primary divided by if they voted in-person, by mail, by absentee ballot, or by provisional ballot

The legal requests are the opening shots in what could be a long, messy legal fight over legislative Republicans efforts to review former President Donald Trump's reelection loss.

The effort follows baseless claims of voter fraud by Trump, which were echoed by a number of Pennsylvania legislators.

However, most Republicans, such as Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, instead walked a middle ground.

They'd denounce the Wolf administration and the state Supreme Court's actions in the lead up to the election for causing “inconsistencies," signs letters asking for the state's electoral college results to be tossed out, but fall short of naming the issue as “fraud."


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

14 Penn. Republicans just filed a lawsuit to kill voting-by-mail. 11 of them voted for it in 2019

Fourteen Pennsylvania House Republicans filed a new lawsuit this week alleging that the state's vote-by-mail law, which was passed with near-unanimous Republican support in 2019, is unconstitutional.

This article was originally published at the Pennsylvania Capital Star

The 34-page suit filed in Commonwealth Court on Tuesday night asks for the state court to declare the law unconstitutional, and prevent the state from issuing mail-in ballots to Pennsylvanians who do not have a work, health, or religious excuse for not voting in-person in upcoming elections.

The law, Act 77, allows all Pennsylvanians to request and to return, a mail-in ballot with no excuse. It was heavily used in the 2020 presidential election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eleven of the 14 House GOP lawmakers who filed the suit voted for the law. Two were not in the General Assembly at the time. And one, state Rep. David Zimmerman, R-Lancaster, voted against it.

Nine of the lawsuit's 's plaintiffs also signed a December 2020 letter asking Congress to toss Pennsylvania's electoral college results, and most were involved in other efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election.

The complaint argues that the law must have been passed as a constitutional amendment, which is put before voters in a referendum, rather than through legislation, where voters do not directly weigh in. That move, the suit argues, disenfranchised the entire Pennsylvania electorate.

To support that claim, the lawsuit points to a half-finished constitutional amendment to approve mail-in ballots, passed once through the General Assembly in 2019.

With new amendment strategy, Pa. GOP could target voter ID, mail-in ballots

Constitutional amendments must be approved in consecutive legislative sessions, and then be approved by the voters at a statewide referendum to win ratification.

That approach was abandoned when GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf instead agreed on the framework of Act 77, which traded approval for mail-in ballots for the elimination of straight-ticket voting, plus funding for new voting machines.

As such, the lawmakers argue, Act 77 usurped “the power of the people to give the final consent to any amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution."

The suit follows up on a first GOP attempt to throw out the law in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election. In it, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, , attempted to invalidate millions of mail-in ballots amid former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his loss to now-President Joe Biden.

GOP 2022 gubernatorial hopefuls spar over Pa. vote by-mail law

At the time, the state Supreme Court rejected the suit, arguing it was too late to challenge the law, and that it could not toss ballots that had already been filled out and counted in good faith.

The Supreme Court's two conservative justices still signaled an interest in hearing out the full constitutional arguments on the law, but they are a minority of the seven-member bench.

Regardless of the court's eventual verdict, Republican candidates for governor already have begun to campaign against Act 77. At least five, including former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, have signaled they would sign a repeal of the law.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

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